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Loss Of Immune Tolerance

Today let's discuss the concept of immune tolerance, why it matters, and some steps you can take to improve your tolerance.

What is Immune Tolerance?

Immune tolerance is a concept in immunology that describes when your immune system appropriately reacts to the environment. If someone has a proper immune tolerance, they do not have many food sensitivities or react to chemicals, and they don't have an autoimmune disease.

Other people, when exposed to something foreign, like a chemical or food, begin to have exaggerated immune responses. When that happens, it is called a loss of tolerance. This loss of tolerance can be a sensitivity to a trigger or can grow into an autoimmune disease.

Why Does Immune Tolerance Change?

Some people are born with very poor tolerance, and as children, they have multiple food sensitivities and reactions. But immune tolerance can also change with age. As we get older, we naturally lose some of our immunological integration and function. Other people experience immune tolerance loss after experiencing a stressful event. A stressful situation that lasts many months or years, like a marriage breakup, is a good example. Even something positive, but stressful, like grad school, for example, can cause a tolerance change.

Some people who lose their tolerance develop an autoimmune disease. Other people form high sensitivities to foods or other substances. There are different stages and different degrees of immune tolerance.

Types of Tolerance

There are three classifications of tolerance: dietary, chemical, and self-tolerance. Let's look at all three.

  1. Oral tolerance/ Dietary protein tolerance - Researchers use the term dietary protein tolerance to explain whether a person's immune system can tolerate acceptable foods while responding appropriately to bacteria or other harmful compounds. Your immune tolerance will decide to either react or not react against the food proteins you ingest. If you lose your tolerance, you will have reactions to various food proteins and develop food sensitivities.

  2. Chemical tolerance - Chemical tolerance is the ability to tolerate appropriately the many substances in our environment. People with loss of chemical tolerance may have sensitivities to strong smells such as gas fumes or heavy perfumes. Others may have skin issues with products like lotion, laundry detergent, or soap.

  3. Self-tolerance -Self-tolerance is the immune system's ability to respond appropriately to the body. The immune system's job is to repair areas of injury and remove dead and dying cells. However, when a loss of self-tolerance occurs, the immune system attacks and destroys healthy tissue. This is an autoimmune disease. For example, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where your immune system attacks your joints.

Diving Deep Into Oral Tolerance

Since most readers of this article will be interested in health as it relates to food sensitivities, let's take an in-depth look into the oral tolerance system.

Dendritic Cells

A principal element of diminished oral tolerance and food sensitivities is over-reactive dendritic cells. Dendritic cells are immune cells that travel your small intestine. These cells have long arms that test different proteins, viruses, and bacteria. These cells decide if your immune system should react to them.

A key component of loss of oral tolerance and multiple food sensitivities is over reactive dendritic cells. One reason dendritic cells become overly reactive is due to deficiencies in stomach acid and pancreatic enzymes. When you have these deficiencies, proteins will not be completely digested. Proteins that aren't broken down properly are called peptides. A method to address hyperreactive dendritic cells is to improve the breakdown of peptides.

How to Improve Protein Breakdown

We need sufficient hydrochloric acid (stomach acid), pancreatic acid, and brush border enzymes to break down proteins. Once broken down, proteins become single amino acids. Your immune system doesn't react or respond to these; it responds to peptides.

Hydrochloric acid is stomach acid that is essential for the digestion of proteins and activating digestive enzymes. These enzymes break apart peptides and keep dendritic cells from becoming overactive.

Note: it is essential to avoid artificial food colorings. Artificial food colorings bind to proteins, thus preventing their breakdown.

Increasing Your SIgA Level

Immunoglobulin A (IgA) is an antibody. Its secretory form, SIgA, is the principal immunoglobulin found in mucous secretions, like the small intestine. SIgA is an essential part of intestinal immune health. It prevents pathogens from attaching to the intestinal lining. SIgA also plays a role in keeping dendritic cells from becoming overly reactive by surrounding and degrading immune reactive proteins. 

Low SIgA levels are typical with high amounts of stress, chronic infection, hydrocortisone or other steroid medications, or vitamin A deficiency. To boost low SIgA levels, you need to address the underlying cause.

Influencing Regulatory T cells

Regulatory T cells (T reg cells) help keep your immune system in check to prevent out-of-control inflammation. Inadequate T reg responses are a principal factor in all autoimmune conditions.

We can influence T reg cells to dampen the inflammatory response with specific compounds. These compounds include glutathione, vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids, short-chain fatty acids.

Promoting Healthy Liver Function

The dendritic cells also carry proteins to the liver. There, immune cells can trigger inflammation if the liver is overloaded or has poor detoxification function. Helping your liver function properly and supporting liver detoxification pathways is beneficial.

Other Factors That Contribute To Loss Of Oral Tolerance:

  • Hormonal imbalances

  • Stress

  • Thyroid hormone deficiencies

  • Sex hormone imbalances

How to Improve Your Tolerance

Diet, nutrition, and lifestyle strategies can improve your tolerance. Remember that if your body is continually reacting to the environment or the food you eat, you are also depleting your immune reserves, your immune potential. Your immune system becomes compromised, and the cells that are typically involved with fighting off infections are not as efficient. This makes it difficult for your immune system to protect you correctly.

What you need is immune resilience. Immune resilience is your body's ability to deal with any kind of pathogen. Building your immune resilience is different than strengthening your immunity; however, you have to have some degree of immune resilience to keep your immune system healthy.

There are several strategies for improving your tolerance. One of the easiest and most established ways of increasing your tolerance is to increase your microbiome diversity. The less diverse the microbiome is, the more immune reactive you become.

If you eat the same diet, same breakfast, same lunch, same dinner every day, especially if it's deficient in plant fibers and diverse types of plants, you can lose your microbiome diversity. This is why it is essential to eat a diet with a wide variety of vegetables.

There is good news. It is possible to become more immune tolerant. And, as you become less reactive to foods, chemicals, and environmental triggers, you have a chance for the immune system to get healthy. Then it can be a strong defense against different invaders that we're exposed to. Building a more robust, more resilient immune system will improve so many aspects of your daily life.

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